Charlestown's Restaurants Tell The Story Of The Neighborhood
Checking out the Charlestown food scene to see how it's changing with the times.
I’ll admit, I don’t know a lot about Charlestown. Though it’s steps from the TD Garden, I always feel like it exists in its own pocket universe, removed from the rest of the city. But like the rest of Boston, it hasn’t been immune to the changing times. It’s a town in transition, struggling to maintain its character in the face of gentrification.
I get here easily enough, taking the Orange Line to Bunker Hill Community College. I’ve picked a terrible day for a visit. It’s the last of day of March and somehow it’s snowing and raining at the same time. The wintry mix is soppy, like the snowflakes were brined for a couple hours before falling out of the clouds. But I’ve got bills to pay and a college degree to justify, so I can’t go home.
I do my best to take in the neighborhood, walking briskly along the main streets. Once my socks are sufficiently soaked, I pop into Brewer’s Fork. Situated under the Tobin Bridge, Brewer’s Fork, with it’s wood fired pizza oven, is a perfect spot to escape the elements. It’s a quiet afternoon here but there’s still great energy in the room. Exposed brick, a long stone bar and treated wood tables contribute to the décor that feels modern without veering into the obnoxious. I sit down at the bar and order off the specials menu, a bowl of spring dug parsnip soup with smoked blue cheese and bacon bread crumbs ($7). It’s a super pleasing dish. Creamy and delicate with a hint of sweetness that’s balanced out by the blue cheese. It’s nice to warm up next to the pizza oven, but I need to keep moving.
I head a couple blocks to the next stop, Ironside Grill which I’d have to say represents more of the old school Charlestown. It’s a straightforward sports bar that serves up familiar pub-grub. Just over the river from North Station, this is a popular destination for pre-Bruins dinners and a great place to catch the Pats. I’m still cold, so I’m sticking with soup. I go for the Guinness stewed chili ($7.50). It’s a quality dish, just a little spicy with red beans, ground beef, hunks of tomato and grated cheese. I have a nice talk with the bartender, who’s born and bred in Charlestown, about all the changes in the neighborhood. We bond over a shared sense of ambivalence and resignation about the situation.
The snow’s let up a little as I head to Monument Restaurant and Tavern. They’ve just opened when I arrive, which is a good thing because the place fills up quickly. It’s a big space, also with exposed brick and a long wooden bar. The smell of lacquer betrays how new the restaurant is but they’re definitely connecting with the community. I order the seared snap peas ($8) with Calabrian chilies, feta, Meyer lemon peel and mint. It’s a nice dish and you can’t beat the feta mixed with a little tart citrus and the crunch from the peas. Part of me wants to resent Monument for being, well, a bit of a monument to gentrification, but this place is so warm and welcoming it’s hard to hold a grudge. The staff is friendly and clearly working hard to build a community – so there’s not much for me complain about.
Like I said up top, I’m not really sure I know what’s going on in Charlestown. There’s definitely a tension here between new and old – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Creative food options are popping up right alongside the classic bars and pubs that remain neighborhood staples. I’m excited to see what’s next.
Brewer’s Fork – 7 Moulton St., Charlestown, 617.337.5703, brewersfork.com
Ironside Grill - 25 Park St., Charlestown, 617.242.1384, ironsidegrill.com
Monument Restaurant and Tavern – 251 Main St., Charlestown, 617.337.5191, monumentcharlestown.com